Business Day Takes on a New Twist

Woodland's Business Day Takes on a New Twist
Posted on 02/25/2020
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Business Day CollageWhat does it take to get a business off the ground? It starts with an idea.


Fifth graders at Woodland Elementary School have been learning about running a business for some time now, but this year the annual event known as Business Day took a different turn. Using one of the district’s personalized learning “plays,” the teaching team turned Business Day into project based learning (PBL). “The purpose of (Business Day) was for kids to share their creativity and learn more about economics (through Social Studies and Math) without even knowing they were learning,” said Angela Haney, one of the teachers who began the project 14 years ago.


The foundation for Business Day starts at the beginning of the school year. Students apply for a classroom job where they earn a paycheck with fifth-grade money - complete with their teachers’ faces on the bills - that can be used later in the year at Business Day and the annual end-of-year auction. The students choose from jobs such as turning the lights off and on, pencil keepers and filling the mailboxes, receiving a paycheck twice a month. 


“During the first semester of school, each student watches their bank grow,” said Haney. “They also learn that life comes with bills and fines. We explain to them that nothing in the world is free and if we make a mistake, like run out of time on our parking meter or get pulled over for speeding, there are monetary consequences.” How does this apply to students? They must pay fines for infractions such as not putting their name on assignments or not pushing in their chairs. Of course, with this being real world learning, students also have taxes taken out of their pay.


Tying the annual event into an expanded three-week economics unit was the perfect foray into project based learning. “We really wanted to do the economics unit and tie it into business day,” explained teacher Nicole Lewis. But the team didn’t want to just stick to a social studies lesson. Lewis said they asked themselves, “How can we speak to economics over (different) content areas and tie it into business day?”


Students learned different aspects of creating a business plan over three content areas: in English Language Arts, they learned about describing their business and creating a logo; in Math they had to calculate the cost of the materials needed to create their product; and in Social Studies, they learned vocabulary and created advertisements.


“The students had to decide if they were going to sell goods or services,” said Lewis. “Then they had to decide on their product.” From individually packaged food to pillows to fidget spinners, the students were all in to make their businesses successful. When ideas were similar, classroom discussions were held about the impact of competition on a business. “They were taking on things they never would,” noted Lewis as she described one student sewing animals that would be used as prizes for an arcade game he created.


The money earned from their jobs wasn’t just for purchasing products from their classmates. Each student had to create a budget for their business, including buying a license, renting the table and chairs, as well as supplies. “Getting the kids used to problem solving, organization and creativity” were all goals of the project, according to Lewis.


Zoey Richter, Landon Roll and Kaleigh Crawford enjoyed different aspects of the project including advertising, pricing and how to set up an inviting display and product. Crawford’s favorite part included lessons about advertising, which were enhanced by guest speakers from the business community. “We learned what you should include and not include,” she said.


Richter appreciated feedback from her classmates as they went through the project. “We had hot and cold feedbacks where we met with other students,” she explained. “They told us how we could improve.” For Roll, he found value in the economics lessons of supply and demand, learning how much of a project you should make.


When asked if they were looking forward to business day coming into fifth grade, all three students gave a resounding, “Yes!” Roll added, “I've been thinking about the product since the beginning of the year.” Stories of past years shared by the teachers got the students thinking.


Richter took a story about pet rocks and modified the idea to square pets made out of clay because she wanted to “do my own thing.” She also decided to supplement her pets by making homemade lollipops. “I put so much work into it and was afraid I wouldn’t sell anything,” she shared. The square pets were a hit, selling out quickly, although she did have some lollipops left.


When Roll heard a story about fidget spinners selling out in a prior year, he began to brainstorm how he could create a similar product. While he didn’t sell as many as he had hoped, Roll learned a valuable lesson. “I would be more careful with supply and demand and ask around to see if people would want the product.”


Crawford debated about going into business on her own or bringing in a partner. “I chose to work with a partner because I felt like we had so many products.” Collaboration worked out well for her business, KK Krafts, when they sold out of their homemade lava lamp-type bottles.


Reflection on the Feb. 13 event is key because the students will run a second Business Day on April 9. “We took a hard look at what went well with the businesses, as well as where work may be needed for improvements,” explained Haney. “Students discussed that supply and demand are a real factor when it comes to being a successful business owner. They realized the more businesses that are alike the very little demand there is, as well as if a business was a one of a kind business that the demand was quite high and that they could increase their pricing!”